Report Shows Support for Serving Youth Charged With Violent Offenses in the Community

Posted September 12, 2018
By the Annie E. Casey Foundation
Young people often are served best in the community, not in juvenile incarceration.

A new report shows that vic­tims of crime broad­ly sup­port serv­ing the major­i­ty of jus­tice-involved youth in the com­mu­ni­ty — includ­ing those charged with vio­lent offens­es — and it rec­om­mends ways to expand com­mu­ni­ty-based options while pre­serv­ing pub­lic safety.

Smart, Safe, and Fair: Strate­gies to Pre­vent Vio­lence, Heal Vic­tims of Crime, and Reduce Racial Inequal­i­ty, pro­duced by the Jus­tice Pol­i­cy Insti­tute and the Nation­al Cen­ter for Vic­tims of Crime, echoes grow­ing agree­ment in the juve­nile jus­tice field that reforms fall short when com­mu­ni­ty-based alter­na­tives are avail­able only to youth who com­mit non­vi­o­lent offenses.

Sup­port­ed in part by the Casey Foun­da­tion, the report found that vic­tims of crime and juve­nile jus­tice advo­cates agreed that com­mu­ni­ty-based approach­es should hold youth account­able while offer­ing effec­tive inter­ven­tions, meet­ing the needs of vic­tims of crime and keep­ing com­mu­ni­ties safe.

Con­sen­sus is grow­ing in the Unit­ed States that com­mu­ni­ty-based respons­es can be more effec­tive — both in terms of address­ing needs and pro­tect­ing pub­lic safe­ty — than rely­ing on con­fine­ment as a response to youth crime. Many juris­dic­tions, how­ev­er, stop short of extend­ing com­mu­ni­ty-based ser­vices to youth involved in vio­lent crimes. The report notes that plac­ing such bar­ri­ers on com­mu­ni­ty-based inter­ven­tions increas­es racial and eth­nic dis­par­i­ties, as youth of col­or often already face sys­temic chal­lenges that result in greater police con­tact and less access to diver­sion­ary options.

Based on its find­ings, Smart, Safe, and Fair recommends:

  • Expand­ing efforts to address the harm caused by crime in under­served com­mu­ni­ties — for exam­ple, increas­ing ser­vices to address trau­ma expe­ri­enced by young peo­ple of col­or who are vic­tims of crime.
  • Step­ping up invest­ments in approach­es that address the needs of young peo­ple involved in vio­lent crime and reduce the harm caused by vio­lent crime.
  • Acknowl­edg­ing that juve­nile jus­tice sys­tems need to demon­strate account­abil­i­ty, share infor­ma­tion and help crime victims.

The report empha­sizes that all young peo­ple in the juve­nile jus­tice sys­tem, regard­less of the offense with which they are charged, should receive devel­op­men­tal­ly appro­pri­ate care that engages their fam­i­lies and con­nects them to their communities.

Smart, Safe, and Fair dove­tails with the Casey Foundation’s efforts to safe­ly and sig­nif­i­cant­ly reduce out-of-home place­ment across the coun­try, espe­cial­ly for youth of col­or. Dur­ing a ple­nary at the annu­al con­fer­ence of the Nation­al Cen­ter for Vic­tims of Crime, Casey Pres­i­dent and CEO Patrick McCarthy said that the report hon­est­ly con­fronts the sim­ple fact that what we are now doing is not working.

It is not work­ing for vic­tims of crime. It is not work­ing for com­mu­ni­ties. It is not work­ing for the young peo­ple who are incar­cer­at­ed,” McCarthy said. Instead, the report offers com­mon-sense, evi­dence-based exam­ples of approach­es that can work more effectively.”

Read the Smart, Safe, and Fair exec­u­tive sum­ma­ry and full report.

Relat­ed Youth Incar­cer­a­tion Resource

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